At some point between sweeping December’s National Board of Review Awards and coming up empty handed at last week’s Oscars, the critically praised Up in the Air lost altitude as 2009’s most likely best picture winner. This may be owing to the fact that this smart, sophisticated comedy faced surprising last minute competition from the better-than-expected Avatar, which, in turn, thrust the overrated The Hurt Locker back into the spotlight (Locker being the easier film for Academy members to pit against Cameron’s – big budget vs. small, high-tech vs. low, Cameron vs. ex-Mrs. Cameron). Even the buzz about Clooney’s career best performance faded when Crazy Heart was bumped up from its 2010 release and Hollywood finally stopped taking “The Dude” for granted. I could speculate all day as to why this great movie didn’t quite land in Oscarville, but it’s better to celebrate its recent, smooth arrival on Blu-ray. My review, after the jump:
George Clooney is perfectly cast in the film as Ryan Bingham, a committed bachelor and expert corporate downsizer who delights in spending his life in airports, airport hotels and on airplanes while traveling around the country assisting companies with employee layoffs. It takes a certain kind of person to stomach firing people for a living, but for Bingham, it’s all in a good layover’s work. Bingham’s detached, transient lifestyle is threatened, however, by the sudden appearance of two diametrically opposed women: sexy, like-minded frequent flier Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), whom he develops threateningly real feelings for, and cutthroat young co-worker Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), whose initiative to perform firings on-line threatens to ground him.
It’s a testament to Clooney’s charm and skill that he makes his emotionally arrested, professionally assholish character so appealing, while his two female co-stars provide more than ample support. Appealingly sexy and aloof in her early scenes and hauntingly cold and focused in her final ones, Farmiga gives a powerful, carefully modulated performance that reminds us, whether starring in camp horror (Orphan), testosterone-y action (The Departed) or smart comedy like this, she’s one of today’s most riveting on-screen performers.
If Farmiga freezes by film’s end, it’s Kendrick who melts in an equally excellent turn as a young woman coming down from a serious case of post-Ivy League entitlement. Her clashes with Clooney make for some of the film’s strongest scenes, not only because both actors are sharp, but because their conflict represents the greater divide between a generation raised without computers and one convinced Facebook “friendships” constitute real intimacy.
Credit to Jason Reitman for crafting a film with quotable dialogue, pitch-perfect performances and, in comparison to the far flung fantasy of Avatar and apolitical action of The Hurt Locker, genuine, heartfelt commentary on the recession-era world we’re living in. To me, this latter element makes it the more accessible and better picture.
Film is presented in crisp, sharply detailed 1080p High Definition. Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles also included.
Up in the Air checks in on Blu-ray with top flight bonus features, including an entertaining and comprehensive commentary from director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first a.d. Jason Blumenfeld. Also noteworthy is a featurette spotlighting Shadowplay Studios, creators of the film’s creative opening title sequences, as well as those used in Juno and Thank You For Smoking. Additional bonus materials include live action storyboards, 13 deleted scenes with optional commentary, a music video for “Help Yourself” by Sad Brad, trailers and more.
Up in the Air is first class entertainment given the first class treatment by Paramount Home Entertainment.
Up in the Air is rated R for language and some sexual content. It has a runtime of approximately 109 minutes.